I learned a lot these past three months. About me, about life, but mostly about food.
I know sauces. I know to brown the bones and parure (leftover cuttings from deboning the pork) in hot fat in a sauté pan until they're so brown, but not quite burnt. I know to dégreaser to remove the extra fat. I know how to sauté the onions until they turn color to add more flavour. Then, I know to singer (add flour) to have a thickened sauce in the end. I know to add the alcohol next, the salted white wine (or better yet the good stuff from home) and let it reduce to remove the acidity. Finally, I know to add the rich, dark, brown veal stock. After this, I know to move this mixture to a smaller pan so that the flavors can marry and not evaporate into the busy, stressful kitchen. Skimming often to remove the scum and foam, I know this is important. And then I can let it do its magic, thicken and absorb all the flavors from the bones, onions, wine and stock. In an hour, this sauce is carefully strained and just needs a little kiss of salt, a spoonful of Dijon mustard, a sprinkle of julienned cornichons, and a dash of white pepper (or black pepper at my house). I've learned sauces.
I also know how to butcher...somewhat. Given a small rack of ribs, I can remove them from its clingy backbone and clean the bones (called manchanner). I can even prepare a pretty paper papillotte to hide the unsightly bone from diners' eyes.
But I can't turn vegetables. And under pressure, I can't assemble two plates for presentation without drips and overlapping veg, my shaking hands failing me. Will it be enough?
It's serving time. I'm one minute late. 60 seconds turns into 80, which turns into 90 and my hands get shakier. I can't dig out the finely julienned pickle from the strainer to display on the plate. Why did I strain it? I'd already strained it earlier. I'm flustered and the chef keeps yelling out "serve, serve, serve". Shhh. I need quiet. I need peace. I want my kitchen.
It's just food. Delicious, nourishing food (but the green beans are a little overcooked, my turned carrots are amateur, and why did I let them burn at the end?). The pork chop may have been over-cooked (but better to be over than under or it won't even be tasted). My plate is whisked away to another room to be judged by the mouths that be.
I did my best, but it may not be good enough. On Thursday I may get a phone call that says "I'm sorry to tell you that you've failed Basic Cuisine." But I've learned a lot. No matter what the chefs decide, I will remember this quote from Émile Coué: "Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better." For now, I'll enjoy the relief of having it behind me. I'll toast with a glass of wine and likely a shot of Skinos later. And I'll be inspired by Robert Crawford:
AdviceI will remember to
When you are faced with two alternatives
Choose both. And should they put you to the test,
Tick every box. Nothing is ever single.
A seed’s a tree’s a ship’s a constellation.
Nail your true colours to this branching mast.
* dream big
* do all that I can
* grab life
* live big
* say yes
* trust life
* be authentic
* be true
* be strong
* let the wind take you
* you are the mast in the wind, growing stronger every day
It's good advice.
Here is Chef's version of my exam dish: Côtes de porc charcutière, pommes purée (Pork chops with pickle sauce and mashed potatoes):
Recipe for Côtes de porc charcutière, pommes purée (Pork chops with pickle sauce and mashed potatoes)
2 pc Pork Chops
25 ml Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
650 g Potatoes
250 g Milk
50 g Butter
1 pc Onion
25 g Flour
100 ml White wine
100 ml Thickened brown veal stock
10 g Dijon mustard
15 g Pickles
15 g Butter
2 br Parsley